Uber, the Ayn Rand-themed car service on your phone, has been having a very difficult time trying to find acceptance from regulators and politicians in New York City.
Like any newly-minted billionaire, Uber is not crazy about the word "no" and that has made dealing with NYC's bizarrely powerful Taxi and Limousine Commission very tough. But while the city's taxi lobbyists are big political donors, their sway over elected officials has only been so useful, and Uber's surging popularity has forced the two parties into a situation that they both despise; compromise.
But compromise can be complicated and, according to Crain's New York Business, the TLC would now like some fancy-ass shows of good faith from its super wealthy debate partner.
Under new licensing rules proposed by the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission, Uber would be forced to purchase Apple Watches and iPhones for the agency.
That is how Uber, the global for-hire vehicle and technology company, is interpreting the rules quietly posted on the TLC's website this week in advance of a public hearing next month.
That could be a broad interpretation of the rule, but Uber's pique is understandable. On page 33 of the 42-page document, the TLC says, "Upon request of the Commission, an FHV [for-hire vehicle] Dispatch Application Provider must provide at no charge a fully operable device on which the Commission can access the FHV Dispatch Application, and access to the FHV Dispatch Application with requisite Base, Driver, and Passenger test IDs." The penalty for noncompliance is a $500 fine and suspension.
Essentially, the taxi guys are saying that they don't have the futuristic tech gadgets that their Silicon Valley counterparts have, so Uber should, like, buy some and hand them over. Then it will be fair n' stuff.
That claim of hidebound pauperism is hard to buy. Especially when the argument could be made that the millionaires behind the taxi drivers should maybe be the ones ponying up for iPhones and Apple Watches in order to keep competitive balance and restore the value of taxi medallions.
How rich are these taxi medallion guys, you ask? Well, the owner of a major taxi medallions company had Nicki Minaj play his son's bar mitzvah over the weekend.
For Uber the idea of buying gifts for the government is the kind of sh*t that John Galt would never do, and therefore antithetical to the whole ethos of the company.
But rules are rules.
Uber is on the hook for a few smartphones and wearables, unless they don't want to play ball with city regulators. But that would mean Uber would have to keep up its habit of ignoring NYC officials, a battle plan that so far has yielded the company only millions in profits.